After about an hour of debate and three amendments to clarify wording, the House of Bishops yesterday approved resolution A049 authorizing liturgical resources for blessing same-gender relationships. A roll call vote was requested, putting each bishop’s vote on record: 111 for and 41 against, with three abstentions. Bishop Tom Shaw, Bishop Gayle Harris and Bishop Barbara Harris each voted for the resolution. It now moves to the House of Deputies for deliberation.
About 30 bishops spoke in equal numbers for and against the main measure until only supporters were left waiting to speak and the question was called. It was a civil discussion and many of the bishops voting against the resolution offered gratitude for the study and crafting process and, in some cases, the “pastoral generosity” of the resolution’s language.
Bishop Shaw commended the resolution, reminding the house that when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-gender marriage, the diocese had to live with pastoral inequity while it waited for the General Convention to act. The pastoral generosity granted at the last General Convention has made a difference, he said. “We’re in a diocese that’s had some growth in the past few years, and I believe that’s not only in part because we’ve cared for gay and lesbian people but also because we’re known outside the church as a church that includes everyone in God’s love,” he said.
During the session Bishop Shaw also spoke in favor of resolution B017, asking bishops and dioceses to raise money for the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza, whose United Nations funding was unexpectedly cut in May. The bishops voted to concur with the House of Deputies in approving the resolution.
All three Massachusetts bishops in attendance also voted yes in a roll call vote to approve B016 requesting that the next General Convention be presented with a budget funded by diocesan askings set at a rate no higher than 15 percent for each year of the 2016-2018 triennium. (The current rate is 19 percent.)
Among other business, the bishops elected Bishop Shaw to represent the New England dioceses (Province I) on the nominating committee for the next presiding bishop.